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Keeping Time

These watches will last a lifetime at sea.

October 4, 2007
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The relationship between yachting and timekeeping is centuries old. When sailors navigated by means of a sextant, their marine chronometers made it possible to determine their exact longitude. Today, we depend on satellites, GPS systems and, yes, a good watch to get us where we need to be on time. And watch companies play a major role both as official timekeepers of yachting events and as sponsors for the America’s Cup and the Admiral’s Cup, among others.

There are many nautical watches on the market for topside timing or for playing beneath the waves, in some cases 1,000 meters deep (not that you would…). The watches here are not only submersible, but they are also the ultimate in elegance and technology. Whether powered by a mechanical or automatic movement (no batteries required), these watches need extra care and maintenance, as they are made up of hundreds of moving parts, but they will literally last a lifetime-or two.

Hardly mass-produced wrist candy, “these watches require hand assembly,” says Michael Thompson, editor of International Watch magazine. “That explains much of their greater cost when compared with a quartz watch.” Also contributing to the price is that some mechanical watchmakers manufacture many of the parts themselves, “right down to the screws, pinions and studs,” explains Thompson. Jewels, usually synthetic rubies, are used as bearings because their natural lubricants provide more reliability, extending the accuracy and life of the parts.

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Wear one of these watches (or the Cartier Pasha Seatimer in “Currents”) while in command of the boardroom or at the helm-you’ll make a huge splash.

Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Diver: In its more than 150 years of history and service to some 50 navies around the world, Ulysse Nardin has been widely respected as a specialist in marine chronometers; its older editions are prized by collectors today. The Maxi Marine’s automatic movement is housed in a 42.7mm 18-karat rose gold case and is water-resistant to 200 meters. The black dial is protected by a sapphire crystal and features luminous hands and indexes and a magnified date window at 6 o’clock for easy readability. On an 18-karat rose gold bracelet ($31,800), this watch is perfect for those high-powered meetings, but the rubber and rose gold strap ($23,800) makes more sense on board. www.ulysse-nardin.com; [email protected]

Audemars Piguet Polaris Chronograph: A sponsor of Team Alinghi in the 2007 America’s Cup (and in 2003), Audemars Piguet shares Alinghi’s spirit for innovation in its watches. The Royal Oak Alinghi Polaris chronograph was tailored to the crew’s specifications, with a countdown device specially designed for regatta starts, using a flyback complication. The Royal Oak’s well-recognized octagonal stainless steel case features eight hexagonal screws, and the caseback is stamped with a wind rose and engraved with the watch’s name and limited-edition number. Its rotating flange allows the wearer to find his bearings according to the sun’s position. Available on a rubber strap with a folding clasp, Polaris retails for $22,000. www.audemarspiguet.com

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Corum Admiral’s Cup Tides 44: Official timekeepers of the Admiral’s Cup 2005, Corum has launched its limited-edition (500 pieces) Tide 44 Regatta. Thanks to a patented module powered by an automatic chronometer movement, the Tides displays not only the usual watch functions, but also the powerful rhythms of the tides, measuring both the amplitude and the force of the currents in relation to the different moon phases. An exhibition caseback is secured with eight screws, ensuring water resistance to 100 meters. The center link of this unique bracelet is made of light and strong carbon graphite. Housed in 18-karat rose gold, the Tides 44 retails for $26,000. www.corum.ch

Rolex Yacht-Master: Since the 1960s, Rolex has been sponsoring some of the yachting world’s most challenging events, from offshore classics (Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race) to prestigious regattas (the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup). The company counts among its ambassadors seven-time world champion, five-time America’s Cup veteran Paul Cayard. And among Rolex’s Oyster Professional collection is the sporty yet elegant Yacht-Master. Water-resistant to 100 meters, this 40mm, 18-karat gold watch is available with a white, black, blue or mother-of-pearl dial. Featuring a special time-lapse bezel and Rolex’s Oysterlock bracelet, the Yacht-Master retails for $20,700. www.rolex.com

Hublot Yacht Club de Monaco: Inspired by the 15-meter sloop Tuiga (built in 1909 by William Fife, restored in ’93 and acquired by the Monaco Yacht Club in ’95) Hublot has created the Yacht Club de Monaco as part of its Big Bang collection. (Pronounced HYU-blo, it means “porthole” in French.) The black carbon dial of this limited edition (250 pieces) displays the red, white and gold flag of the yacht club, while the caseback features an engraving of Tuiga. With its angular design, built of superimposed layers of different materials, the 44.5mm stainless steel case houses a self-winding movement, with 100-meter water-resistance. Topside is a ceramic bezel with six H-shaped screws holding down the extra-wide sapphire crystal. Worn by Prince Albert II of Monaco and Luca Bassani of Wally Yachts, the Yacht Club de Monaco retails for $11,400. www.hublot.com

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